Why “Brains on Fire” is a Must-Read for Marketers

I’m a raving fan of the Brains on Fire movement.

I had the honor to be invited to join them in July for their annual FIRE Sessions – a day when they bring in marketing experts who are at the leading edge of the marketing discipline to share their insights and passion with Brains on Fire’s own community, of which I consider myself a part. 

This year, participants were excited to find an advance copy of their new book, “Brains on Fire; Igniting Powerful, Sustainable, Word of Mouth Movements” waiting for each of us.

I eagerly devoured the book and firmly believe it’s a must-read for marketers.

Why, you ask?

Because more than any other organization I’ve become acquainted with, the Brains on Fire team “gets” how to successfully leverage the fact that we’re in a new era of marketing in which each of our clients and customers has access to their own microphone. 

What Brains on Fire does, in inspiring manner, is empower people to go beyond having access to the microphone – empowering them to grab those microphones and ignite movements.

As a fan of the Brains on Fire movement I grabbed the microphone three times in July to rave about the brilliance of their team and the experience they created for their own community – the Brains on Fire Community – at the FIRE sessions: Here in Why You Must Rethink Your Marketing, Here in 3 Smart Reasons to Empower Instead of Influence, and Here in The ROI of Playing The Fool.  It felt wonderful to be able to express my respect for them, my belief in the power of what they are creating, and the ways that I value them as individuals with a microphone, so that many more people would know what I know about them. 

And that is the power of the mic in the hands of your own fans.

This past weekend I was in Atlanta for an event that was put on by my “wise friend” who is creating a movement of powerful women from around the world – women who have the inner power to make the world a better place.  I had barely arrived at the event when she saw me in the audience and asked me to come on stage and share my own experiences with the group.  In effect, she was giving me access to my microphone.

Well, as those of you who know me well know, I love to be given the mic and I try always to speak from the heart – which is what I did on Friday night.  Although I don’t find my own story particularly profound, I had several people come up to me and tell me that they were touched by it, and express a deepening of their own belief in the community of women at the event and in their own power because of the event.

My point being, I know what it feels like to be an advocate – a fan – of something and to be given the opportunity to receive the mic and to share my enthusiasm.  It is empowering while powerful at the same time.

“Brains on Fire” is a lesson-by-lesson guide for you as a marketer on how to give the mic to your clients, fans, advocates, customers, and evangelists (however you define them), on how to become fans of your fans, and on how to ignite your own movements by empowering your communities.  The result is crazy powerful!

Have you had your own experience with a microphone as a “fan?” Please share in the comments…

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Photo is Microphone by hiddedevries.

Why You Must Rethink Your Marketing

How would your marketing change if your goal was to create advocates and not sales?

My brain cells began to ignite when I heard Steve Knox ask that question in the Brains on Fire FIRE Sessions last week.

Really stop and ask yourself that question: How would your marketing change if your goal was to create advocates and not sales? 

It’s not blasphemy – it’s brilliance. As Steve went on to explain, “advocates beget advocates,” (they capture the hearts and minds of others and the truth within your brand), and advocacy decreases acquisition costs and increases loyalty. Increased sales and profitability would be the natural result.

According to Steve, advocacy marketing is the new dimension of marketing that will transform how companies do business. No longer will brands advocate on their own behalf, as they have for the past 100 years.  People will be increasingly enabled to advocate on a brand’s behalf, and those people who we know and trust will become the most powerful advocates of all. 

What will be required for companies to be successful? Real relationships with people…people who will, in turn, become trusted advocates.  But it will all start with relationships with people.

We don’t talk about people much in marketing.  Instead, we talk about consumers and customers and shoppers and clients.  As Steve shared, we are on the verge of these words transforming to “people.”  Because if we want to create advocates we must first create relationships with people, which means we must treat them as people and talk about them as people and yes, alas, we must converse with them as people.

Kathy Sierra wrote a blog post five years ago detailing the results of a study in the Journal of Educational Psychology that showed when the brain thinks it’s in a conversation it will pay more attention and “hold up its end.”  She went on to explain that when you are reading something that is written in a conversational format your brain will register that it’s not in a face-to-face conversation but, because of the conversational tone, it will pay much more attention.  I suspect it will also - dare I imply it – be more likely to become engaged.

She ended her post with a truly brilliant line, “If your brain had a bumper sticker, it would say: I heart conversation.”

How many marketers are putting 2 and 2 together and recognizing that the most obvious and direct route to sales and profitability starts with conversations with individuals – who, at their core, love to converse - that lead to relationships that lead to advocacy?  And how many feel truly fortunate to be working in marketing today when it’s never been easier to start those conversations?

What’s even more exciting? Going a step beyond, as Brains on Fire is doing, and enabling advocates to amplify their passion and ignite movements. 

In an era of price pressures, private label products, global competition and rapid technological improvements to product features, a movement stands apart and cannot be replicated.  It is the competitive advantage that can’t be usurped…

I can think of a number of things I’d encourage my clients to do differently if they courageously asked themselves how they could refocus their energies on creating advocates rather than driving sales.

How about you?  Will you rethink your marketing?

Please share with me in the comments…

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Photo is Heart by Seyed Mostafa Zamani

3 Smart Reasons to Empower Instead of Influence

There has been a lot of talk lately about influence – because of the Fast Company Influence Project and a HubSpot-sponsored program with a similar name.  Insights from these projects address how we influence others online and the myriad theories behind how to do it effectively.  There is even a contest to see who is actually (a point of contention) the most influential person online today.

As an experienced leader and someone who had been led by others many times in the past please allow me to posit the following:

Isn’t it much more effective and personally rewarding to focus on empowering others rather than trying deliberately to influence them?

I think so.  Here are 3 reasons why…

1. Influence is an expression of your power whereas empowerment invokes someone else’s power.  Influence is an expression of your ability to accomplish or achieve something through someone else.  Perhaps as a marketer you influence someone to buy something.  As a leader you influence someone to follow your vision.  The benefit of this influence is limited in time and space.

Empowering someone else invokes them to express their power.  If you empower someone to become a brand advocate, or to be part of a team that develops the company vision, then the expression of that power is unlimited in time and space. 

Why? Because when you genuinely empower someone you allow them to bring the full force of their brilliance and creativity to the table. The end result of this can be infinitely greater than what would have come to be if they’d simply allowed themselves to be influenced by you…

I think about my own experience with the EnVision Recycling Program that I shared with youOur team created a program infinitely more valuable to our company because we were empowered to think big.  If we had been influenced by the C-Suite to follow a particular path we would not have been nearly as successful.

2. Being empowered is an invitation to allow your passion to exude – being influenced is not.  We all know we work harder and more purposefully when we’re passionate about something.  What’s the impact of this?

I had the sincere honor of being invited to attend last week’s Brains On Fire FIRE Sessions down in Greenville, SC, where the topic of passion was freely discussed.  (After all, FIRE and passion go together beautifully, which is one reason the Brains On Fire movement is so vastly inspiring).

As Geno Church shared - as chronicled here by Mack Collier - when teens who were passionate about stopping teen smoking realized they were empowered to do something about it through the Rage Against the Haze movement, they took ownership of the movement.  Not only did this ownership provide the will to make a significant impact on the rate of teen smoking, for many of the teens this empowerment and ownership changed their life. 

To put an exclamation point on this, Geno stated that when looking for teens to be part of the movement they looked for teens with passion rather than influence – because influence could be made but passion can’t.

Cultivating empowered owners of a movement – whose passion was allowed to exude and to propel them – was vastly more impactful than trying to influence with advertising or standard marketing models.

3.  According to Steve Knox, CEO of Proctor and Gamble’s WOM Unit Tremor (who presented at the FIRE Sessions), they have not been able – with 10 years of research – to find any proof that influentials exist. 

Rather, what they’ve found is that for those who have a seemingly higher rate of conversion (getting others to do something/buy something) the reality is that they talk to more people.  These so-called “influentials” are actually “connectors” - people with wide and deep social networks. When you factor in that they talk to more people you discover that they have the very same rate of conversion as others!  He termed these folks “Trend Spreaders” - rather than “Trend Setters.”

So, if you have customers that fit into this “connectors” category, wouldn’t it be more impactful to empower these people to become brand advocates rather than trying to simply influence them?  After all, advocates will exude that passion discussed earlier, they will then win the hearts and minds of other customers, and as Steve said – chronicled in this post on trusted advocacy by Mack Collier…”advocates beget advocates.” 

Just think of the power you’d be harnessing…!

What do you think? Do these reasons resonate with you – and are there other reasons to empower rather than influence? Let’s chat about it in the comments…

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Photo is “Empowered” by Search Engine People Blog